BY any standards, Tom Proud can be said to have had a good innings after clocking up 52 consecutive years as a player for Kildale Cricket Club.

He might not be opening the batting any more, but the 66-year-old still turns out for the team when he is needed, and he enjoys the game as much as he ever did.

At a recent dinner to celebrate the club's centenary, Mr Proud's achievement was highlighted in appreciation of his efforts over the years. As club chairman George Peirson says: "Tom is always there."

Mr Proud, who lives at Ingleby Greenhow, started playing for Kildale in the Saturday league in 1951. Before that he had played as part of the local school team.

Although he went to Kildale school and has maintained his lifelong link with the club, he has never actually lived in Kildale.

He lived in the Guisborough parish, born and bred a farmer's son at Sleddale. The family's land was so remote they could not even see another farm.

He joined the Kildale club as it was the nearest to his home. As a teenager he had to walk two miles to the cricket ground, play and then walk back home. Once there he had to do jobs such as milking and feeding.

Cricket was definitely in the blood. His father played for Kildale, as did his brothers, while his uncle Jack captained Scarborough and his uncle Bill once lined up a trial for Yorkshire.

Unfortunately, the date clashed with an interview to join the police and he chose to chase the job rather than the ball.

"I liked the game and it was one way of getting out of some of the farm work," said Mr Proud.

"More than 50 years later I am still playing, but I only really make numbers up now. I don't play every week. I have dropped from one to 11 in the order."

He used to be opening bat and his highest score was 104 not out. He became the first ever player to score a century for Kildale CC with that innings in August 1961 against Carlton and Faceby.

"But that was my one and only century," he says. His next highest score was 86, again against Carlton, in the Village cup.

Mr Proud has never missed a season, only the odd match. "I have enjoyed good health which has meant I have been able to keep playing," he said.

"I once had to be taken to hospital after being hit in the face. The ball came off my own bat and I went to casualty with my whites covered in blood. I looked a terrible sight."

He has also seen many changes in the way cricket is played. "We did not wear batting boxes when I first started and there were cows in the field where we played. You had to watch out for the cow-pats," he said.

"It was quite a dangerous game at one time. But it has been great. I have done a bit of everything to do with the game in my time - opened the batting, opened the bowling and kept wicket, although I didn't do this until I was 50!"

Until 1969, Mr Proud farmed the family land. Then he married his wife Marion and went to work for ICI at Wilton, from where he retired at the age of 57.

"I still enjoy playing cricket, but I know I should not be out on the field," he says.

"You know you are past your sell-by date. You can't run or throw like you used to do, your judgement goes. Anyone over 50 will have a lot more trouble in catching the ball."

The Kildale team has mixed ages, with one player in his late Fifties. But the mix clearly works well as the club won two cups last season and finished fifth in the Langbaurgh League. Kildale have won the Langbaurgh League ten times and more than 50 cups.

When Mr Proud completed 50 years as a player, the club gave him a shield inscribed with "50 not out."

The family tradition also continues. The couple have three sons and a daughter and all three boys have played the game. Peter Proud is still playing and was opening bat last season.

Marion Proud is also involved with the club. She is scorer and helps with the teas, although on occasions Mr Proud will do the scoring.

"I enjoy watching the game," she said, adding that her own sister Margaret used to play for the Guisborough ladies' team.

Mr Proud was about 50 before he owned his own bat. More a stroke-player than a hard-hitter, he still has the club bat he had used up to that time.

Cricketing life also includes a few more luxuries these days. Mr Proud says that, in his early days, players used to change behind hedges as many clubs did not have pavilions. Kildale was one of the few which did.

When the club moved ground in 1948, the pavilion was sawn in half and moved on a milk wagon to the present field just outside the village.

Its replacement cost £800 in 1988 and eight members gave £100 each because the club did not have the funds to cover such an expense. Other people donated materials and labour to help with the project.

As if his on-going attachment to cricket was not enough, Mr Proud also plays badminton and bowls and helps out at his son John's pub in Potto. "I am never in," he says.

Paying tribute to the long-serving veteran, Mr Peirson said: "He has been a regular player for all this time and still turns out when needed. He is always there.

"This is quite an achievement. Tom is a very good supporter of the club, as indeed is his entire family.